Roadhog: Identity in flux
Let’s be completely honest. Right now Roadhog is not in the best spot. I might be alone in my belief that Overwatch is actually fairly balanced but there are a few heroes that might need some tweaking to accentuate their roles within the game (I think Mercy would be another prime example). To be clear, I do not believe Roadhog is imbalanced. All ability values, cooldowns, etc. are all about where they should be given his current kit. Before his current state he was, in fact, imbalanced to offset some inherent issues with his kit. Anytime you have a hero with a pull in a team based game it makes balance difficult (just like snipers actually). Roadhog used to be the anti-teamwork tank carry. Being able to one-combo a certain percentage of heroes without any help from the team was his only real strength. Now, with that taken away, he has lost his identity and his current identity doesn’t seem to work with the current state of the game.
So what is his current identity now that he is no longer the one man apocalypse he once was? If Blizzard didn’t like that he was at his best operating somewhat separate from the rest of his team with such a binary play style then it only follows logically that his new identity would contain more teamwork elements. Right now it seems he is intended to remain an off tank presence being able to pick out wayward enemies and to bring them down with additional damage from the rest of his team. The problem right now is that his kit doesn’t fully enable this identity. He is too vulnerable and not enough of a threat to truly play that offtank role and his hook potential is too circumstantial and slow to be a reliable tool in the dive-centric meta. In a slower meta he might thrive a bit more but I still think his kit needs some tinkering.
Some recent and proposed future changes have already addressed part of this equation. His head hitbox reduction marginally helped his survivability and possible future changes suggested by Goeff Goodman are centered around giving him more survivability in fights. Blizzard knows that Roadhog needs to be able to fill that offtank role and enabling him to get more into the thick of things helps increase his threat in fights so he can get off more scrap gun damage. I am personally skeptical as to how the community will accept these changes and if that will translate to more Roadhog play, but I am happy we are continuing to tinker with his kit to help flesh out his new identity.
Maybe tweaking his kit around tankiness isn’t the best avenue to bring his strengths to the forefront. Many have suggested a simple (arguably stupidly simple) change to Roadhog: more damage! Tweaking his damage might indeed help him become that threat that he needs to be to bring him back into the meta but most people making this argument really just want back the old Roadhog and honestly I can’t think of many ways that damage changes wouldn’t be a step backward in that regard. Perhaps changes could be made to his kit in relation to his hook. Obviously Chain Hook has been in the spotlight a LOT with regards to Roadhog updates. Blizzard recognized early that his ability to generate picks was the core of his identity and they tried to balance it. In exploring the hook, however, they realized that the problem with Roadhog was bigger than just his hook, it was, as mentioned above, his former proclivity to operate outside of the rest of his team. Now that they have toned back the one-combo potential that he had perhaps the hook can be revisited. Getting a solo one-combo kill every 6 seconds was hella over-powered. But, with that possibility off the table perhaps bringing the cooldown of the hook back down a bit to allow for Roadhog to operate in the fast paced meta we are currently in might help. One possibility is that the only real way to bring Roadhog back in a meaningful way is adding heroes and making changes that shift the meta in general to a place where he thrives.
I’m sure there are other possible ways to bring back Roadhog by giving him somewhat of a new identity that places him as an integral part of various team compositions (in fact I would love to hear your thoughts if you are reading this), but the key take away from the back and fourth journey that has been Roadhog changes is that he is no longer what he used to be and likely never will be and that is OK. I miss the ability to carry my team by getting two kills by myself in a fight without having to worry about my team synergy too, but I have let go of that because I know that if Blizzard can get Roadhog into a better place it should only mean better things for esports because it will mean that he is meaningful in a team centric role. Here is to hoping that our favorite fat man find his identity and, thus, his return to the competitive world.